By no means am I a die-hard NBA fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love some things about the NBA. I love Derrick Rose, especially when his knees work. I love watching Steph Curry and Klay Thompson sho0t three pointers, blissfully unaware they are allowed by league rules to take a shot closer than 27 feet. I love everything Mark Cuban has ever said. Mostly though, the NBA is an after thought to me. Sure, watching Lebron’s return to Cleveland is exciting, and seeing how the Thunder and Clippers deal with the aftermath of adversity will be interesting to see. And one of the best rookie classes in a while has entered the framework of the league. But in the end, little parity exists, and there are only about five or six teams with a realistic possibility of winning the NBA Championship, if that.
Among those elite five or six team is not the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are one of the greatest franchises in professional sports. Although their ridiculous 16 NBA titles is one shy of the Boston Celtics for most all time, it’s also 10 more than the third place team, the Chicago Bulls, have won. In fact, the Lakers have played in an unbelievable 31 championship series’. For perspective, the NBA awarded its first NBA Championship trophy in 1950. This means as of this season, the Lakers have played in just under half of all the NBA Finals Series games to ever happen. That is a mind-boggling statistic. Since the inception of the franchise, the Lakers have only had 12 losing seasons. The Oakland Raiders have had not had a winning season since 2003, which is soon to be 12 years.
My point is the Lakers are a great basketball franchise. They have tons of Hall of Famers, including Jerry West, James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Kareem, Shaq, and Smush Parker. Kobe Bryant, who currently plays for the Lakers, has won five titles and will join those other names in the Hall of Fame.
And in 2014, the Lakers will be one of the worst teams in the NBA.
This may seem a little hypocritical to say, since my hometown team has won the most Super Bowls in history, but I LOVE when the big guys lose. Any time I see a traditional powerhouse with historical relevance suck, it’s always amusing to me. Already 0-5 in a young NBA season and their first round draft choice Julius Randle out for the year, it promises to be a year of hilarious ineptitude from one of the leagues premiere franchises.
This is not a sad story. The current Los Angeles Lakers do not need, nor deserve your pity. They did this to themselves. By now, you are probably aware of my love of numbers. So let’s analyze some. The league salary cap (the amount of money allotted to pay players) is about $63 million. This season the aforementioned Kobe Bryant is making $23 million. Kobe Bryant is 36 years old. Thirty-six is young for a politician, but not for an NBA shooting guard. And Bryant is an OLD 36. He came to the league at age 17 out of high school, played every season since then as well as some runs with the US Olympic team, and ruptured his Achilles tendon a few seasons ago. Despite playing only two games last season, the Lakers went ahead and gave Bryant a 2-year $48 million guaranteed contract, effectively eating up one-third of the money to sign free agents or pay existing players.
Kobe Bryant is one of the 10 best players in NBA history, no doubt. But I don’t think he’s currently one of the 10 best players in the league. Can the Lakers, a team obviously in a rebuilding stage, really justify giving a 36 year-old guard coming off a horrific injury and subsequent injured shortened season a max contract?
This article is not meant to be an entire op-end piece of Kobe Bryant being the reason the Lakers suck. I’ve been studying journalism for a while, so I’m doing my best to keep my personal opinion out of this piece, but one thing worth noting about Kobe Bryant is his notorious poor treatment of teammates. Hall of Hamer Smush Parker claimed Bryant “totally ignored him” during his illustrious stint with Los Angeles. Pau Gasol was constantly blamed for on-court problems by Bryant, and Bryant was the reason the Lakers traded away one of the best centers to ever occupy court space. The Lakers trading Shaq was like 9/11: when it happened everyone was shocked and saddened, and we instantly needed to point our fingers at someone. So is it crazy to think Bryant possibly was the reason several free agents turned down the Laker’s offers in the offseason? I don’t want to speculate, but why else would someone walk away from a lucrative deal with the best basketball franchise in the league?
Another reason the Lakers are so awful is because Jeremy Lin is on their team. Jeremy Lin is a smaller, less talented Yao Ming with a Harvard education. Jeremy Lin’s crossover is so slow Steve Nash tells him he needs to pick up the slack while encased in a back brace. Jeremy Lin’s jump shot is so flat and inaccurate Robert Sacre tells him it’s time to start passing the ball more. If Jeremy Lin’s basketball IQ was half as high as his actual IQ maybe he would understand how to execute a pick-and-roll. Jeremy Lin is also Chinese, not that it matters, but I feel it’s at least worth mentioning.
The rest of the Lakers roster, including forgettable faces such as Wes Johnson, Carlos Boozer, and Ronnie Price, is bad enough it makes the Utah Jazz look like the 1996 Bulls. Jordan Hill, arguably the team’s second best player, would not be the second best player on most D-league teams. Even Nick Young, a respectable NBA shooting guard who can score 20 points a night, but usually needs around 45 shots to do it, is probably now better known as being Iggy Azaela’s boyfriend.
Despite a terrible roster, a questionable money situation, and bad luck, the Lakers also play in the Western Conference. There are 10 teams in the Western Conference with a legitimate shot of making the playoffs, which means most nights the Lakers will act as a rest game, as Damien Lillard and James Harden can play 20 minutes and then watch from the bench as their respective teams beat the Lakers by 60.
It has to get better at some point, right? Like I said, they are a premiere NBA franchise. The Lakers are a brand, one of the most well-known in the world. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to get better for a while. As I mentioned, the Lakers have committed $48 million over the next two seasons to Kobe Bryant, meaning they are unlikely to get any big name talent this coming offseason. Their best hope will come in the NBA draft, but with players like Bryant, Boozer, and Steve Nash well into their 30’s and likely close to retirement, the Laker’s rebuilding process is shaping up to be a long, tedious project. So keep your heads up Lakers fans! Literally, keep your heads up and look to the rafters and check out all those old championship banners, because you probably won’t be hanging anymore for a while.